Category Archives: Other Reviews
The essence of a grifter, even a well meaning one, is wrapped in the essence of risk and danger vs. reward. In “A Lot Of Nerve” [Ian McCulloch/Thistle/280pgs], it is about the lead character of Jones knowing where to see his limits versus the capital to be gained. Like most criminal protagonists, he always seems to be one step ahead of his competition until he gets in over his head. The play at hand involves a set of papers which involve a formula that Jones seems to know nothing about. The time frame in terms of year is vague but sticks firmly in the modern with a slight ode to a bit of film noir without losing the plot devices of burner phones and GPS. The aspect that fuels the book has to do with the essence of identity but also the chess game that goes on behind the scenes to make everything look normal. Jones is under the thumb of a local gangster named Finch who unfairly gouges him because of his own shortcomings. Jones supposedly gets on the radar of a government branch who may or may not be who they say they are. The true structure though comes in the form of Tomasetti which is where the true meat of the story lies. There is an undeniably Godfather structure to the old man’s progression especially in the extremes of violence and calm without moving a finger. The aspect of Horlicks (a kind of hot chocolate with alliteration) instills both contentment, fear and a sense of understanding between Jones and his very superior teacher. The aspect of tactile approach is what differentiates Jones as he looks to punish only those who require a bit of schooling. Hernandez, a police inspector who happens upon part of his little scheme, plays both confidant, semi romantic interest and plot device despite her very real essence of making sure Jones knows his place. “A Lot Of Nerve” nicely intersects the reasoning of the lead character pushing the boundaries of story texture while still allowing for a dexterous yarn.
By Tim Wassberg
The essence of the spy thriller again reflects in its intrigue but as with another book read directly after it (Flamingo Lane), the author (retaining and remarking on their own fictional life) seems to want to put him or herself (depending on the scenario) in the middle of the action. While this makes sense as it allows them (in a certain way) to see through the character’s eyes, it nonetheless can be a grinder. The aspect of being identifiable also leads the idea to being over dramatic (or melodramatic if you like) and self-serving. While this has a larger canvas than the previous book, the idea in “The Moroccan Girl” [Charles Cumming/St. Martin’s Press/368pgs] is no less contrived at certain points right down to the jilted lover or interest from before who has angles of gaining revenge of the woman that had wronged them. The difference that fuels this story is how paranoid (and at times whiny) the writer Carradine is in the story. If the key with many new novels is to create a character that you can run with (like Faye in “Flamingo Lane”), Lara Bartok is an even more interesting structure much like a female James Bond but with defection issues. The run/chase/relay she and Carradine do around Morocco has its moments but ultimately they survive because most of the other spy operatives are fairly inept which wouldn’t necessary be the case in a real life situatiob. The recruitment aspect of Carradine is the most relatable aspect outside of the character Bartok. And while trust is an important theme of the story, ultimately its drive is propelled by all the lies that are told. The resolution for all the bombast that leads up to the finale is fairly predicable in its eventual reveal although the author does motivate the latter half of the book with quite a few doublebacks. Bartok, as a fact of reference, reminds one of what Marion Ravenwood would have been without the impact of Indiana Jones in her life: a woman who takes no prisoners…a franchise in and of herself. The book had definite potential but takes on the wrong origin story and wrong character lead focus per se.
By Tim Wassberg
The texture of a book is interspersing it with both a sense of the real but also a heightened sense of awareness. In “Flamingo Lane” [Tim Applegate/Amberjack Publishing/224pgs], which seems to be a sequel of sorts to the author’s earlier “Fever Tree” (which this writer hasn’t read yet)’ the texture of reflective narrative structure where the novelist and certain aspects of his characters are reflected in the page while still moving the story forward is viable but, at times, too coincidental. The story involves Faye, who apparently in the previous book has undergone a survival horror in her life at the hands of some fairly evil guys south of the border. This book is her recovery or, at least, her step back towards the light. The locations are well drawn and keys into two great locations of Quintana Roo and what would be considered the northwest area of Florida. Crooked River sounds similar to Crystal River so that angle might be correct. The noir aspect of the pursuit with a man both in love with his target and a victim of his own greed plays well as does the aspect of a cop with a a heart of gold. The texture works effectively even though the edges of it border on caricature. The author however is quite adept at pace using an almost cinematic structure of cross cutting scenes to build to a crescendo which is done for both flashbacks but also in focus within the final scene. Faye is an effective protagonist showing both pain and suffering but also wit and humor within the face of a dark past and an uncertain future. “Flamingo Lane”, despite its simplicity at times, is an enjoyable read that propels the characters with gusto.
By Tim Wassberg